Monday, June 07, 2010

Games: March to June

Here's some game-related stuff that I've been into over the last couple of months:

ImmorTall is a lovely little Flash game with an simple interface (move left or right) that forces you into some tragic choices.

Air Pressure is a gentle, ever-so-slightly depressing Flash game about a break-up.

Mike gave me a copy of Sorceror and Sword, a supplement for Sorceror which focuses on the pulp fantasy Conan, Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser, Elric (among others). It's an inspiring book - in the sense that it inspires me to want to run games using it, and it provides a methodology for creating stories in a fantasy setting without getting bogged down in pre-planning an epic story for a seven-year campaign.

Continuity is my favourite Flash game in a long time - a combination of platformer and sliding puzzle. Have a go. The first level should only take you a few seconds to work through.

Shade was a nice little Twilight Zone styled piece of interactive fiction. When in doubt, consult your to-do list!

I gave a little bit of feedback on Love in the Time of Seid by Jason Morningstar and Matthjis Holter and Blowback by Elizabeth Shoemaker. Providing feedback on games I'm excited about is one of my favourite things about my game design hobby.

Love in the Time of Seid is a game set in a royal court that creates a situation filled will the potential for betrayal and love (of both the doomed and true varities). It relies on a few simple rules (and no dice) to draw out the players' creativity in creating scenes, and to make them challenge each other to go deeper into the scenes (in order to create a story that matters).

Blowback is a spy game to create stories much like you'd see in Burn Notice (highly competent spies trapped in suburbia). The basic ideas of mission planning and how to handle the big conspiracy are excellent, and I'm looking forward to reading the next draft.

Rock Band and Singstar continue to be the greatest games ever created. Pure fun encoded onto a disc. Singstar, in particular, constantly surprises me with its ability to keep me playing until midnight.

I've enjoyed this Minesweeper variant, which crosses Mindsweeper with a D&D-esque reward system of 'levelling up' in order to tackle tougher squares. I also enjoyed Warp Shot - it's like golf, with gravity wells and Portal-esque wormholes.

I also attended two sessions at Day of Games, a day-long convention where people rock up, choose a game they're interested in, and play for a couple of hours. I ran Poison'd, Vincent Baker's game about pirates for Malc, Donna and Karen (with Mark, who showed up about 15 minutes after we'd created characters). This is the second time I've run it with really fun results. The game is slightly internet-notorious for encouraging the players to make nasty, pervese, and sexually reprehensible dramatic choices. What I realised during this play of it is that players engage with (or veer away from) that sexual and violent content as they're comfortable with. In particular, the game has a few questions in its character creation section that I consider to be like the safety on a handgun. If you ask questions about whether the characters have committed particular sins, then you're taking the safety off, which in terms of this game means that you can expect those sexually violent behaviours to be part of the story of the game. But you can equally leave those particular sins off your list of questions, which - I think - creates a safer environment (useful, if you're not sure about the comfort levels of the group you're playing with).

Day of Games also gave me the opportunity to playtest two fantasy games by Simon Carryer. On Mighty Thews is pulp fantasy with a (as we played it) ironic, light-hearted attitude (think Fritz Lieber's Fafhrd and Gray Mouser stories, ... with dashes of Elric and Conan thrown in there too). Simon's other game (which I shall not name here because I don't want the google hits) is fantastic - he describes it as D&D ... if it had been invented by David Cronenberg. Still very much in development and in need of rules that distinguish it from old-school D&D dungeon crawls, it's a great mix of a grim mood, character classes that examine gender roles in a primitive society, and biological horror (of which I want to see much much more). I expect this to be an unsettling hit once it's completed.

I've also played and finished a seven session game of Bliss Stage, which I think will have to be a separate post. Great fun, though. Creatively challenging, and also socially challenging as I got to know and respect the playstyles of some people I haven't played much with. I thoroughly recommend Bliss Stage, and I think I'll be taking some design lessons from it and applying them to my own games.
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